Sunday, November 29, 2009

Massage and Mr. King

After a two year hiatus, I went for a massage the other day. It's taken me this long, after moving, to find a new massage therapist. And this would be why? Because I'm a bit of a weenie.

Massage therapy hurts, when one has fibromyalgia. Before I was diagnosed, when we all thought I had rheumatoid arthritis, I went often. It was important, I was told, in order to keep my muscles in shape, since pain held me back from true exercise.

But oh! I can't begin to describe the pain during treatment.  My therapist, at the time, did not completely believe in the first diagnosis...she could hardly touch my skin and it would hurt. But she did what she could, and after a couple of days recuperation after treatment I did feel a little better.

And then I moved to another area, saw another specialist and was finally diagnosed correctly. I was put on medications to combat the extraordinary nerve pain. The pills took awhile to work...but here I am, today, with little pain...and little memory, due to a combination of the drugs and fibro itself. But that's another story.

It was time to try massage therapy once again, especially with the long, cold Winter soon to arrive, where walks and gardening activities come to a close.

My new therapist is a young woman who completed her three years of training three years ago. She is very competent; she knew instantly how to treat fibro. I did not even have to tell her when my muscles cramped...she noticed immediately.

My worries were for naught.

She was silent throughout the treatment...and so was I, as a consequence.  But my imagination keeps me occupied, whenever I am captive to a treatment, whether it be the dentist's chair or a massage table...or just waiting in a queue.

I'd heard on the news that Stephen King was contemplating writing a sequel to The Shining. He recanted his thought shortly after he made it, saying it wasn't possible...but perhaps.  He answered his questioners just as a Master Writer will.

Whoever knows where the Muse will take a Writer, never mind a Writer like Stephen King?

And so, it gave me huge fodder for thought, during the massage, about young Danny Torrance, his mother Wendy and Dick Hallorann. Where would they be now?

In particular, I think about Danny, all grown up, with all his special skills. Has he found another evil Hotel, another Overlook? Or did he, during his teen years, deny his gifts, with all the disparate perception that goes along with that age?

He could not have come through those horrific scenes with his Dad unscathed emotionally. I envision a young boy who eventually rebels, runs away, becomes a criminal.  Or perhaps Danny manages to find peace, goes through school and university...and then runs into another unspeakably evil horror.  I wonder...will Danny eventually be taken over himself? 

Perhaps Dick Hallorann would once again come in to save the day...

A particularly hard jab from the masseuse brought me back to reality...she had lulled me into complacency for a bit, while she gained some knowledge about my muscular system.

But now the hard part began. Still, I felt she held herself back, as she manipulated my larger muscles back to how they should be. 

I think, perhaps, my next massage may not be as gentle.

But the story of Danny, or any one of Mr. King's characters will keep me occupied for the duration of it. 

And then the thought comes to me...I wonder if Mr. King ever thinks about what has happened to his characters, after he's put them through the emotional wringer?

There could be many sequels if he ever did so...

Saturday, November 21, 2009


It began to Snow when I arose this morning. Here in the Cariboo, Snow covers the ground very quickly, once it begins. It isn't very cold...only -5C...but still cold enough that a day indoors sounds extraordinarily wonderful!

It is the kind of day where I can imagine sitting by the Fire with a hot cup of Tea and a good book. I promise myself I will do this exact thing...but first, I am on a mission.

I dreamt last night about my mother. She is close to me,
these days. Perhaps because it is near Christmas, her favourite holiday when she was still alive.

The dream involved making Gingerbread with her. And when I awoke, I remembered that afternoon my mother and I made a very sticky loaf of Gingerbread. I don't believe it ever became a family favourite, since I only remember that one time...but it was an afternoon made in Heaven.

I was very young; many of the ingredients in this loaf were exotic and strange to me. It was the first time I tasted Molasses; I have loved it ever since. And then there was candied Ginger, Almond paste, Honey, Almonds, Sugar Beet syrup...for a budding foodie, these ingredients made a huge impression on me.

The whole afternoon became a memory instilled deep within. I can still vividly recall a Stormy day with steamy windows and Air redolent of the scent of Ginger, Allspice and Cinnamon. That day, it was only me and my mother...other family members were not there. I had her complete attention all to myself, not something which happened very often.

The loaf my mother baked came out of the oven very black and sticky. It was beyond good...I recall licking bowls and utensils while the loaf baked and being in utter awe at how such sticky batter could ever bake into something like a loaf of bread. And yet it did...

I once had this recipe. But I wrote it down in my twenties as my mother recited it to me, in pencil. I can no longer read it well enough...the writing
is faded and the paper is thin, after having been folded so many times.  The ingredient amounts have been erased with time. I wish I had asked my mother once again for this recipe, while she was still alive.

That's the thing...regret can become a friend once one's parents are gone...

So this is my mission find a recipe which is as good as the one my mother baked that long ago afternoon.

Perhaps this new recipe will not have all the ingredients my mother used, since many of them would have been European, but I will adapt it to include as many of them as I can remember. And I will cover the baked loaf with Almond paste, just as my mother did.

Recipes are all about adapting, aren't they? No matter what the recipe is for..

And then...then the Fire will still beckon. With a cup of  hot Tea in hand and a slice of Gingerbread, I promise myself I will spend the rest of the afternoon in warmth and comfort, watching the Snow fall with silent speed.

With my mission accomplished.

" Had I but one penny in the world thou shouldst have it to buy ginger-bread." Love's Labour Lost...Shakespeare

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Traditions and Memories

As the years go by, I find I have largely forgotten many of the old traditions my Mother kept alive for her children.  Yet I have remembered St. Nicholas Day on December 6 for ever...and I believe it was because my Mother, by her awesome storytelling ability, ingrained this one very deeply within me.

December 6 was more fun for me than Christmas. Perhaps it was because it began the Christmas season and the lovely attendant  anticipation, way back when I was small.

My mother would begin by reminding me that St. Nicholas was on his way, about two weeks before the actual date.  She would tell me our home would have to be sparkling clean...and that included my room.

I was notorious for stuffing clothing, books, shoes and toys under my bed. This was the one time of the year when I made sure to drag each item out from under the bed and put them in their proper place. I recall so well feeling as if St. Nicholas was in the room with me...I did not dare shirk my duties.

My mother told me I had to polish my shoes. As a young child, I was not sure how to go about polishing shoes. And I remember dowsing my patent leather shoes in a tub of water, because I thought this was the way to make sure they were really clean. It took days for them to dry out; the patent leather was not ever the same.

I was terribly afraid these shoes, almost brand new and bought for the Christmas season, would end up with a piece of coal in them rather than the goodies I had received in previous years.

You see, on St. Nicholas Day, those same shoes, clean and now a little cracked, would be placed on the window sill. I would draw a picture for St. Nick and put it in one of the shoes...and in the other shoe was my list for Christmas. And there was a plate of carrots for St. Nicholas' white Horse.

But it was not only clean shoes and a clean house St. Nicholas looked for, when he travelled from home to home. He apparently, my mother told me, had a very large Book in which all children's behaviour, good and bad, had been chronicled, never to be forgotten.

I couldn't begin to imagine it. But I wanted that Book.  A budding writer and voracious reader even so long ago, I thought that Book St. Nicholas had would give me years of enjoyment, as long as I did not look up my name. Even now, my heart races a little at the thought I might ever find the tell-all Book...and my name.

It was all I thought about.  I visualized St. Nicholas leading his Horse through the Snow, holding tight to The Book.  And when he came to a house, he would open it wide, and find the resident child's name. Depending on that child's behaviour, he would either place a piece of coal in the shoe or he would fill it with amazing chocolate goodies.

I would bother my mother, possibly non-stop, about The Book.  Was her name in it? Yes, she replied. Had she ever received any coal? Perhaps, she would say...she couldn't quite remember.  But she had once had a friend who received coal year after year!

My eyes as wide as saucers, I clamoured to know more about my mother's friend.  Why did she receive coal year after year? Well, my mother explained, she just could not be good.  She could not remember her manners, she wore stained and dirty clothing (to my mother, cleanliness was next to godliness) and her shoes were forever covered in mud!

Well.  Upon hearing the news about this unfortunate girl, I wandered away to digest what I had heard. Then, as well as now, I needed time to run through all the scenarios in my come up with more questions for my beleaguered Mother.

Hmmm. I remembered how my shoes could get covered in mud...sometimes even my socks! And my clothing could certainly get stained and dirty. My manners were not all that great, either. I was shy and quiet...greetings to other people were not my strong point...I'd hide behind my mother, mostly.

I had some fearful thoughts that my name would have that black mark against it, in St. Nicholas' Book.

I went back to my mother. What if, I said with great anxiety, what if my name had a black mark against it?

My mother did not let me off the hook.  She said, We'll have to wait and see.

Her answer kept me very good...I outdid myself in keeping clean, remembering my manners, staying out of mud...

That is, until St. Nicholas arrived and filled those pretty, patent leather shoes to the brim with the much coveted chocolate. There was nary a lump of coal to be found!

I stayed good for a week or two, after December 6, but my memory for continuing that goodness faded after awhile, and I went back to wallowing in the mud.

The whole scenario happened again when the Christmas season began, shortly after St. Nicholas Day. Santa Claus, according to my mother, also wanted children to be good.

But for me, Santa never had the same clout as St. Nicholas...he only kept a list.  He didn't have that big, black Book.

The tradition faded as I grew older.  I tried to implement it with my children, but they were far more sophisticated than I...they knew inherently they would receive candy in their shoes.

Black Book or no. 

Note:  The top photo is me at the approximate age of three with Santa Claus.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Scent of Pineapple

I struck up a conversation with a woman as we were waiting in the Dentist's office the other day. As is common, we began by discussing the weather.

The weather here in the Cariboo has felt a little strange, lately. In October, there were occurrences of Arctic Air, which dropped our temperatures well into the minus category. We had Snow, which I would have enjoyed much more, had I known it was only going to last a day. Then the Rains came, in fits and starts, along with much warmer and Sun-filled weather.

The lady shook her head, as we talked about the anomalies we were experiencing. She is keen on snowmobiling and Ice fishing; she felt with the lack of cold weather, perhaps her hobbies would not be available this year.

She said...What will I do during the long Winter, if there is no Snow or Cold, to freeze the Lakes?

Quite honestly, I did not know how to reply to her comment. A Winter without Snow is right up my alley...I would be ecstatic if this were to occur!

We discussed the Coast,
from where I have recently moved. I told her a Winter without Snow was quite common there, and the Snow which did fall rarely lasted long, although last year the Coast received an Arctic blast, which included much Snow. I told her, as well, that the warmer temperatures we have enjoyed lately remind me so much of Fall days on the Coast, where I would be planting bulbs and enjoying the Fall colour.

Of course, she knew all this, as she had cousins who had moved South to Vancouver Island. And she told me they would call and tell her they were mowing their lawns as early as February. She would tell them, in return, of the beau
tiful, blue, sunny days here in the Cariboo, where she could ride her snowmobile for miles and miles, without fear of Rain. But, she reiterated, she couldn't do this without Snow...

Later, sitting in the dentist's chair, I mused about our differences, a born and bred Cariboo resident and Island girl.

To me, there is no doubt both places are beyond beautiful. Mother Nature has outdone herself in the province of BC. She has
carved and smoothed Valleys and Mountains, Rivers, and Lakes. She has molded the beaches and craggy cliffs for the Pacific Ocean, which laps all along the shore. She has built high, semi-arid plains and plateaus...there is a place in the Chilcotin which I swear cracks my heart a little, each time I visit.

In so doing, she has built a Land which has a place to please everyone's wishes and desires, as she honours our differences.

I think about how I have recently felt I am beginning to know and
understand the Cariboo and her people. I have lived here almost two years; during that time I have gained a little knowledge of the Land and its weather.

I consider...would I really understand a Winter here without Snow and the atten
dant Cold? It would feel strange. This is not the Cariboo way, it is the Island way. Some people who have lived here all their lives have built their livelihoods around Winter and his playground.

While I...I have built my life around green gardens and walks along a wind-swept beach, with scudding black clouds in the distance, promising Rain. On the Coast, there is always the promise of Rain...

So, of course, Rain and the soft, southerly Wind is completely known and welcomed by me. It is what I hanker for; sometimes I will go out onto the deck to fully embrace the lashings of Water thrown at me by that gracious South Wind, as she takes me back to the beaches of the Island.

At the same time, I have learned to love the extremes I exper
ience in the Cariboo. I feel as if the inhabitants here are as attuned to the Land as I am. People here, it seems to me, have learned to listen, gaining knowledge and therefore, power over the extremes. They know each Season well. They know what to expect.

And through innocuous conversations such as this one and others, I am learning to accept, if not exactly embrace, the length, breadth and Cold of the Winter Season.

But. As I told the lady in the dentist's office, right now, today, I am enjoying unseasonably warm, lovely weather.

And...right now, today, I am going for a walk outside, to sniff out the scent of Pineapple on the breeze.

Winter will arrive soon enough.